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A Time Travel Dialogue

John W. Carroll


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1The Introduction makes reference to two nicely accessible introductions to the physics of time travel: J. Richard Gott’s Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe (New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 2001) and Paul Davies’How to Build a Time Machine (New York: Penguin, 2001). The philosophical work appealed to is David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998).

2Monday identifies issues raised in popular time-travel movies, touching briefly on the infamous grandfather paradox. The movies mentioned are Back to the Future, dir. Robert Zemeckis (Universal, 1985) and The Terminator, dir. James Cameron (Orion, 1984).

3Tuesday builds on David Lewis’s ‘The Paradoxes of Time Travel’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 13 (1976), 145-52, to address the grandfather paradox and other bilking arguments. Similar issues are addressed in Paul Horwich’s, ‘On Some Alleged Paradoxes of Time Travel’, Journal of Philosophy, 72 (1975), 432-44; Kadri Vihvelin’s, ‘What Time Travelers Cannot Do’, Philosophical Studies, 81 (1996), 315-30; and Jenann Ismeal’s ‘Closed Causal Loops and the Bilking Argument’, Synthese, 136 (2003), 305-20. The movie discussed is 12 Monkeys, dir. Terry Gilliam (Universal, 1995).

4Wednesday focuses on presentism as the source of an objection to the possibility of time travel. The conversation includes many ideas from Simon Keller and Michael Nelson’s ‘Presentists Should Believe in Time-Travel’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 79 (2000), 333-45, and also Phil Dowe’s ‘The Case for Time Travel’, Philosophy, 75 (2005), 441-51. Ted Sider’s Four Dimensionalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) includes an accessible presentation of the philosophical and scientific challenges to presentism; see pp. 11-52. Movie discussed: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, dir. Leonard Nimoy (Paramount, 1986).

5Thursday delves into puzzling questions surrounding causal loops and their explanations. The example of a jinni (the watch) was drawn from the movie: Somewhere in Time, dir. Jeannot Szwarc (Universal, 1980). A discussion of these mysterious objects can be found in Gott’s Time-Travel in Einstein’s Universe (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001), pp. 20-24. Two short, delightful papers on this topic are Storrs McCall’s ‘An Insoluble Problem’, Analysis, 70 (2010), 647-48, and Ulrich Meyer’s ‘Explaining Causal Loops’, Analysis, 72 (2012), 259-64.

6Friday raises the possibility that time is multi-dimensional, the idea that events take place along multiple timelines. For more fully developed models than the one sketched by Tad, see Peter van Inwagen’s ‘Changing the Past’, Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, 5 (2010), 3-28; G. C. Goddu’s ‘Time Travel and Changing the Past: (Or How to Kill Yourself and Live to Tell the Tale)’, Ratio, 16 (2003), 16-32; and Jack Meiland’s ‘A Two-Dimensional Passage Model of Time for Time Travel’, Philosophical Studies, 26 (1974), 153-73. The book discussed is H. G. Wells’The Time Machine (New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1992, first published in 1895). The movie discussed is Primer, dir. Shane Curruth (ThinkFilm, 2004).


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